Debra and Darrel Slugoski pray following Confession on Feb. 17 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Sherwood Park.

WCR PHOTO | THANDIWE KONGUAVI

Debra and Darrel Slugoski pray following Confession on Feb. 17 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Sherwood Park.

March 7, 2016
THANDIWE KONGUAVI
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Darrel Slugoski, one of hundreds of people who poured out their hearts on the Archdiocese of Edmonton's annual Day of Confessions on Feb. 17, felt like shouting from the mountaintop.

"We should be shouting it from the mountaintops, just how powerful a sacrament this is," he said, after completing his Confession.

For the fourth year in a row, every parish in the archdiocese had priests available from morning until evening to receive penitents.

Slugoski's wife, Debra, was equally enthralled by the experience.

"For me, it's very cleansing. It's like spiritual therapy: I go in, let the priest know what my issues are, and we do the penance in order to reap the joy of what you went in there to get off your chest."

As in previous years, the day drew a number of people who had not been to Confession in decades to experience the grace of God in the sacrament.

"There were many beautiful Confessions," said Father Miguel Irizar, who celebrated the sacrament from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. at St. Peter's Parish in Villeneuve.

"Even though at the end of the day I was tired, I was also very pleased, very happy, to be used as an instrument to bestow mercy on people."

Many people took advantage of having a priest in the church all day without appointments, to drop in around their own schedules, said Irizar. The steady stream of penitents this year showed that word of the day is spreading.

Father Antony Cruz Michael, associate pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Sherwood Park, said people were grateful for the day, with some even suggesting an additional Day of Confessions each year.

People came earlier than the 8:30 a.m. scheduled starting time at the parish, which had up to five priests on hand.

"Lots of people benefitted from the day," he said. "It was a spiritual reawakening in the parish."

One person he saw had not come to Church in 40 years. Living common law, he was unsure whether he was permitted to come for Confession.

MERCY AND COMPASSION

"As a priest, I am never to judge any person," said Michael. "I'm a priest who sits in the place of Jesus so I need to show that mercy and compassion toward the penitent. I'm not there to judge but I'm there to guide people, to bring people back to Church."

Another lady came who had never been to Confession.

"It was a kind of miracle for her," said Michael. "Lots of people came as though the Spirit led them."

Father Len Cadieux, pastor of St. Mary's Parish in Red Deer, had "at least a dozen or so" people who had not been to Confession in 20 to 30 years.

Many had been wondering how to return to the Church and the Day of Confessions provided that opportunity.

"It's about healing and rebuilding a relationship," he said.

RED DEER HOSPITALITY

Despite the high volume of penitents, the day went smoothly, with those waiting receiving hospitality as well as a number to save their places in line.

The timing of the day, so close to Lenten penitential services, could be re-examined, said Cadieux.

Other complications include the number of priests, with some, like Cadieux, being the only one on hand to hear Confessions. In rural areas, where one priest can serve multiple parishes, there is also the issue of travelling time.

Father Jaya Rajan, who saw 60 to 70 penitents at St. Anthony Church in Drayton Valley Feb. 17, could not be in two places at once, so a Day of Confessions was scheduled in Mayerthorpe for the following day.

INCREASED INTEREST

Rajan noticed increased interest for the Day of Confession, compared with weekly Confessions at the parish which, for some, have become routine.

"I can notice the difference on this day. People are so happy to come and they are ready to make use of the opportunity when they have this special day."

The archdiocese instituted the annual Day of Confessions in 2013 to encourage repentance during Lent.

Archbishop Richard Smith, in a statement on the Day of Confessions, said the clergy continue to be graced through the response to the day of mercy.

"When we say, 'Lord, I am a sinful man; Lord, I am a sinful woman; please come with your mercy,' we recognize our own limitations and sins," said Smith.